The casualty list among Australia's fast bowlers has grown with Jackson Bird set to fly home from England with pain in his lower back. Although the seriousness of Bird's injury is not yet known, worryingly for the Australians this is the second overseas tour this year that has ended early for Bird due to a back problem, after he flew home from India during the first Test in Chennai in February.
"Jackson has had low back pain over the past week of the Ashes tour and will return to Australia today to begin the process of investigating the source of the pain and rehabilitation," the team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said on Thursday.
Bird played the fourth Investec Test at Chester-le-Street and bowled well at times, collecting 2 for 58 in the first innings but also struggled for penetration in other spells and did not claim a wicket in the second innings. Bird, 26, has been highly effective for Tasmania at almost every venue in Australia and he could be an important bowler in the home Ashes if fit.
Bird is the second Australia fast bowler to suffer a back problem on this tour after James Pattinson was diagnosed with a stress fracture early in the series. Australia's fast-bowling stocks were also hit this week by the news that Pat Cummins would almost certainly miss a third consecutive domestic summer due to a back injury.